Paul Gascoigne has pellets in his groin that 'treat alcoholism' - how do they work?

Paul Gascoigne claims pellets in his groin are treating his alcoholism. [Photo: Getty]

Paul Gascoigne has revealed pellets implants in his groin are helping him beat his long battle with alcoholism.

The former England footballer, 52, told Good Morning Britain hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid he underwent the procedure in Australia nine months ago.

“The pellets… there’s something with the endorphins in your brain, not that I’ve got a brain,” he said.

“I can socialise but if I touch spirits or drugs I’ll just automatically be sick.

“So I have a couple of beers, couple of glasses of wine, but nothing more than that.

“It lasts for nine months and then they dissolve.”

Despite a slip-up at Christmas, Gascoigne is now “back on the straight and narrow”.

How do pellets in the groin treat alcoholism?

The “pellets” are thought to be “naltrexone implants”.

Also known by the brand names ReVia and Vivitrol, the drug naltrexone is approved to treat alcoholism and opioid addiction in the UK and US.

Naltrexone competes with these illicit substances for opioid receptors in the brain, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Exactly how it combats alcoholism is unclear, but is thought to be due to the euphoric effect of excessive drinking being minimised or blocked.

Many addicts then report a reduced desire or urge to drink.

When given as an implant, the small pellets are inserted under the skin, where they slowly release naltrexone into the bloodstream, Rehabs.com reported.

Recovering alcoholics sometimes rely on naltrexone tablets to curb their cravings, preventing relapse.

An implant may be preferable for those with a history of relapsing or if they forget to take medication.

When tested in opioid addicts, scientists from the Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research in Oslo found a six-month implant warded off drug use for 60 days longer than those on “usual aftercare”.

A review of nine studies by the University of New South Wales revealed naltrexone implants were “superior” to the oral drug at “suppressing opioid use”.

The Australian scientists noted the evidence they were working with was “moderate to very low”, with further research being required.

Naltrexone implants tend to be given alongside therapy in order to target the psychological issues behind drug use or drinking.

When it comes to safety, the procedure can lead to infection, inflammation and pain at the site of implantation.

Naltrexone implants also do not prevent fatalities or serious complications if a patient deliberately drinks excessively to get their “kick”.

The drug itself is commonly associated with abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle or joint pain, headaches, insomnia, anxiety and restlessness, according to the Alcohol Rehab Guide.

The implant may also fail to stop withdrawal symptoms if a person does not “detox” beforehand, leaving them with illicit substances in their system when they go under the knife.

For those interested, the procedure is not available on the NHS.

Patients can expect to be pay between £500 ($650) and £1,850 ($2,405) for an implant lasting three, six or 12 months, according to naltrexoneimplanteurope.com

It is unclear why Gascoigne went under the knife in Australia.

The implants are not FDA approved in the US, United Healthcare reported.

For those unable to go private, the NHS offers a range of therapies and medications to help target different degrees of alcoholism. Find out more on its website.